Dems slam Maryland governor for killing Baltimore light rail

Dems slam Maryland governor for killing Baltimore light rail

Maryland Democrats in Congress are sharply criticizing the state's Republican governor for killing a proposed light railway in Baltimore. 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Thursday that he is canceling a proposal to build a 14-mile light rail line that would have been called the Red Line in Baltimore, which is his state's biggest city. 

Hogan said he would allow development to proceed on a separate light rail in the Washington, D.C., suburbs known as the Purple Line, but Maryland lawmakers in Congress said Thursday that they are unhappy with the split decision.   

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"I’m pleased that the governor has not closed the door to the Purple Line and recognizes the positive impact it will have, but he has asked Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties to shoulder considerable additional burden and opened the door to altering the plans," said Rep. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings MORE (D-Md.), who is running for an open Senate seat in Maryland in 2016. 

"I’m troubled by these changes and will be reviewing the impact to ensure commitments made to communities along the route are met," Van Hollen continued.  I’m deeply disappointed that Governor Hogan is refusing to fund the Red Line, which holds significant economic promise for the Baltimore region at a time when it is sorely needed." 

Supporters of the Red Line have argued that its construction could have been sparked redevelopment in some of the neighborhoods that were damaged in the protests of the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray at the hands of city's police force. Riots sparked in parts of the city where the proposed light rail would have run. 

The Red Line in Baltimore was estimated to cost $2.9 billion to build, which Hogan said was too much to spend because ridership estimates predicted the line would not carry enough passengers to cover the expense. 

Democrats in Congress who represent Maryland districts said Hogan is being short-sighted about the potential benefits of the Red Line, which would have run on an east-west route through Baltimore to supplement an existing subway line and north-south light railway. 

"I am disappointed that the governor did not move forward on the Red Line, which would have been a transformative project for Baltimore," Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyBiden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care plan The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president 2020 Democrats push tax hike on wealthy investors MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement. "We have seen how profoundly many areas of Baltimore are hurting and how new economic development is needed there.”

Delaney added that he is concerned that Hogan, who was elected on a campaign to cut taxes in 2014, said he is approving the Purple Line on a condition that local governments contribute more money to its construction.  

“It is critically important that the Purple Line gets built and what I fear is that the governor has implemented a process to derail the project, and derailed the billions in new investment in economic development and thousands of jobs it could create," he said.

“While I’m encouraged that the Governor indicated some support for the Purple Line, I’m uncertain as to how it can be successfully reformulated with materially less state funds and worry that such an effort may effectively terminate the project," Delaney continued. 

Hogan framed his decision to kill the Baltimore light rail and build the Washington, D.C., area line with less state funding as a matter of practicality. 

“I have always said this decision was never about whether public transit was worthwhile, but whether it is affordable and makes sense,” he said in a statement announcing the light rail decisions. 

“In reducing costs here, hundreds of millions of dollars will become available for other important projects," he continued. "Our administration promised to chart a new course for Maryland — one where economic development and jobs are our top priority. The Purple Line is a long-term investment that will be an important economic driver for our state.”

Supporters of the Purple Line have argued for years that building the light railway would make it easier to travel between Washington, D.C.’s heavily populated east and west suburbs in Maryland. The 16-mile railway is planned to run from Bethesda, Md., to New Carrollton, Md., connecting the outer reaches of the D.C. Metrorail's Red and Orange subway lines without having to travel through the nation’s capital. 

Maryland has spent already nearly $170 million on the Purple Line, which is expected to cost $2.448 billion in total to build. The Obama administration has also included $100 million for the project in its proposed 2016 budget earlier this year.